Mr. Schiff Weinstein

When Rebecca and I first moved into this apartment four years ago, we bought ourselves a New Yorker subscription in the name of “Schiff Weinstein.” Like any two Jewish names mentioned in succession, this conglomeration of our last names sounds more like a law firm than a person. Nevertheless, Schiff Weinstein developed something of a life of his own, at least in the eyes of U.S. Postal Service. In addition to hundreds of issues of the New Yorker, he has received pounds and pounds of junk mail. Mr. Schiff Weinstein has his own set of stick-on mailing labels, courtesy of some children’s hospital Mr. Schiff Weinstein has declined to donate to, for fear of receiving more junk mail. Mr. Schiff Weinstein is not a very nice man. Apparently he’d rather let children die of cancer than place one piece of junk mail in the recycle bin.

The problem with Mr. Schiff Weinstein was always that he is not in fact one person. He is in fact two people, Schiff and Weinstein. These two split, female halves of Mr. Schiff Weinstein’s tortured and nonexistent personality have been silently fighting over the single issue of the New Yorker for the last four years. Schiff usually gets her hands on it first, being the first one home in the evenings. She prefers to read the New Yorker at the kitchen table while eating cream cheese and crackers, a habit she perfected in adolescence. (When Weinstein started reading the New Yorker, she finally understood why Schiff would never go see any movies with her in high school. Schiff was reading David Denby and Anthony Lane’s brilliant and unforgiving reviews in the New Yorker and consequently would sniff at the mention of any movie, “I heard it’s not that good.”) Weinstein, on the other hand, prefers to carry the New Yorker around with her in a special New Yorker-sized pocket in her satchel, reading it in bits and pieces on the subway. Schiff sometimes takes the New Yorker into bed with her at night. Schiff does not rise until well after noon. If Weinstein wants the New Yorker for a morning commute, she must secrete it in her own bedroom. However, as Weinstein does not wish to admit to herself that she is the kind of person who would hoard a shiny, fresh New Yorker and keep it from the other half of Mr. Schiff Weinstein, the person to whom it rightfully belongs and is in fact addressed, Weinstein must not only secrete the New Yorker in her own room, but do so while lying to herself about the very act she is committing. This upsets Weinstein, because while she did not understand much of the Sartre she labored over for most of the year 2000, she does know that Sartre thinks lying to yourself is bad. She read all about Sartre, in fact, in the New Yorker not long ago and how nasty he and Simone de Beauvoir were to all their other lovers. Weinstein estimates that 68% of her amalgamated knowledge of the world comes from the New Yorker, and this may be one reason she’s willing to go to such lengths to ensure that she reads it.

For four years, the idea of purchasing a second New Yorker subscription for the bifurcated halves of Mr. Schiff Weinstein was never discussed. Then one day, Schiff asked Weinstein to stop taking the New Yorker on the train for days at a time, and Weinstein had a stroke of brilliance. “I’ll get my own New Yorker subscription,” said Weinstein, and in that moment she realized that this was something she had dreamt of ever since she first read a Talk of the Town and thought, “Well, isn’t that just terribly clever.”

Mr. Schiff Weinstein continues to receive the New Yorker, as does his friend (and perhaps married relative), Meg Weinstein-Pfeffer. (Weinstein prefers to have magazine subscriptions sent to various aliases, so she can track the junk mail that they send her and direct her ire accordingly. A pointless but amusing sport.)

The only problem is, Meg Weinstein-Pfeffer started receiving the New Yorker while her superhero alter ego, Super Lefty, was in Peru for three weeks. Super Lefty and her magazine-receiving alter ego Meg Weinstein-Pfeffer hoped vaguely that the New Yorker would publish those double issues they sometimes do, the ones that are both a disappointment and a relief when they arrive with an ampersand in the date in the upper right corner, indicating that no new New Yorker will arrive next week, and this particular New Yorker is to suffice for two weeks. No such luck. Super Lefty arrived back in New York this week to find that Meg Weinstein-Pfeffer had received no less than three New Yorkers, one for each week Super Lefty and her alter alter ego, Dwight D. Eisenhower (apparently, wearing army pants rolled up over one’s boots and a leather jacket and some aviator sunglasses and an army green military cap and a pretty necklace one’s mother gave one that happens to have a chain that kind of looks like tiny ball bearings and chewing on a toothpick or a smoke all the time can cause a person to look like Dwight D. Eisenhower, but that is the impression of others, Super Lefty maintains that she was simply dressing for the weather and terrain) were away in Peru. And of course by today, today being Wednesday, a fourth New Yorker has arrived, this one some kind of special 9/11-fifth anniversary issue.

And so after years of alternately hoarding, sharing and losing the New Yorker, Meg Weinstein-Pfeffer is literally drowning in New Yorkers. It’s all she can do to blow through the mid-August issues, reading outdated but still brilliant political commentary by Hendrik Hertzberg and articles about surfboards and conductors the rest of the L train has long since forgotten, in her quest to reach the present New Yorker moment. Weinstein firmly believes that a New Yorker should be read in the week that it arrives, or not at all, otherwise it becomes a blur of that unmistakable font, a cacophony of witty observations and meticulous, sprawling journalism. But the August New Yorkers, untouched as they were by Schiff, addressed as they were to Weinstein (or Meg Weinstein-Pfeffer) were just too tantalizing. And so Meg Weinstein-Pfeffer is learning the hard way to be careful what you wish for. If it’s your own subscription to the New Yorker and you have a credit card, you just might very well get it.

2 Responses to “Mr. Schiff Weinstein”
  1. Mike O'Reilly says:

    You Rule!! I am so glad you are back. Missed you much.

  2. John Crook says:

    LOL. Googled you and this was the 1st thing I found. What an insight in to the world of you, your New Yorker and alter egos. Love it! x

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